GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Mat Latos isn’t yet 100 percent ready for exhibition games and doesn’t mind that his next session will be on the side.
Physically, Latos feels fine.
But the White Sox pitcher said Tuesday he and pitching coach Don Cooper are in the midst of mechanical changes. Though he thinks they have made significant progress, Latos is OK with another round of work on a back field versus in an exhibition game. With that in mind, the White Sox decided they will start Erik Johnson against the Cubs on Saturday and Latos is set for another detailed work session with Cooper.
“There’s no World Series for the Cactus League,” Latos said. “It’s all about making pitches and preparing for the season and taking momentum into the season. To me, I get into a game and I’m not 100 percent ready, it’s more harmful than it is good. Once you speed up the game, (side sessions) and (games) are two different things. The speed and momentum are completely different. The tempo is completely different. To get into something where everything speeds up and you have bad mechanics isn’t helpful at all.”
The plan Cooper and Latos have devised calls for the right-hander to revert his mechanics back to the successful pitcher he was with the Cincinnati Reds. As he dealt with knee injuries the past two seasons, Latos has changed. But his knee is healthy once again and Latos and Cooper have been hard at work in the bullpen.
Latos participated in a simulated game on Monday against live hitters. Cooper said Latos threw 60 pitches over four innings in a controlled environment and looks fine -- “he’s where he needs to be,” Cooper said.
Latos likes the work in particular because Cooper challenges him with different scenarios, which brings an interesting element to an uninteresting environment on a back field with no fans in the stands and a few observers milling around. One example offered was that Latos would pretend like he was in an 0-0 count for all 15 pitches he threw in a simulated inning.
[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]
“‘So what do we want to do in an 0-0 count?’” Latos said. “‘We want to get strike one.’ Certain things like that. It’s not something I’m used to, but it’s something I’m really opening up to. To have that little bit of a challenge really makes you kind of step your game up in a game that really doesn’t have the adrenaline as it does in a live game. It adds a little bit to it.”
Latos is pleased with the results so far. He’s not an eager rookie worried about making an impression in Cactus League play. He knows good work to prepare for the season is much more important.
“Been kind of grateful in controllable situations, making things easier a little easier on myself,” Latos said. “(Cooper) has a game plan and we’re sticking to it and so far it’s working. It has helped out a lot to where I’m getting really comfortable with my mechanics.”